SANTA CLARA – Whither George Kittle?
49ers fans could have been asking themselves that very question at halftime during Monday night’s 24-9 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. Of Jimmy Garoppolo’s 13 targets in the first half, none of them went to No. 85. But on the 49ers’ first pass of the second half, Jimmy G found Kittle in the seam for a 20-yard gain.
So, did Kittle say something to coach Kyle Shanahan at halftime to get more involved?
“No. I’m out there doing my job,” Kittle said after the game. “Whatever they ask me. I love catching the football, I love (being) out there scoring touchdowns and stuff like that, some nights it doesn’t happen. But I’ll be damned if I don’t make an impact in the run game, which I definitely did tonight.”
As Kittle noted, his block helped spring Jeff Wilson Jr. free for a 32-yard touchdown in the first quarter. He also had a nice downfield block on Deebo's touchdown. Those plays are very valuable, especially with the 49ers' banged-up o-line that was without left tackle Trent Williams and lost another left tackle Colton McKivitz midway through the game with a knee injury.
But Kittle only finished with two catches on four targets for 24 yards. Kittle nearly pulled in a tip-toeing touchdown at the back of the end zone in the fourth quarter, but the Niners had to settle for a chip shot field goal.
In the end, Kittle and the 49ers got the win. He’s probably still finding a groove after missing the first two games with a groin injury, but you can’t help but notice Kittle has just six catches on nine targets for 52 yards combined through his first two contests of the year. Last season, he ranked second on the team with 94 targets, per Football-Reference, or an average of 6.7 in his 14 contests played.
Kittle is viewed as one of the top all-around tight ends in the game. His run-blocking is a huge weapon, but it’s hard to explain his low usage in the passing attack so far.
Kittle shared a safe answer when asked if he’d like to be more involved through the air.
“Whatever (coach) Kyle (Shanahan) plans, man,” Kittle said. “It is what it is. I’m just gonna go out there and do my job to the best of my ability.”
Stay tuned to see if Kittle gets more involved in the offense, as the 49ers rank tied for 27th in the NFL with 17.8 points per game. Getting Kittle more touches could be one way to kickstart the Niners.